Confidence (and April's Insecure Writer's Support Group)

C is for Confidence

Since today is the third day of the blogging A to Z challenge, but it also happens to be the first Wednesday of the month, which is the Insecure Writer's Support Group day, I decided to combine these two and post about my insecurity: lack of confidence.

I've been part of a writing forum for about six months now, and it has its ups and downs. Most recently, I've been quite down about it. This has arisen from one feedback I've given which gave me a proverbial slap in the face by suggesting that my personal beliefs had no bearing in the feedback I was giving. In other words, my personal beliefs should have nothing to do with how a particular scene comes across to me. In all honesty, I find that to be quite wrong.

Every reader brings their personal beliefs, backgrounds and experiences to a novel. I believe that a book is more personal than a movie. A reader spends more time on a book than a movie, and if the situations or the morals in that book or movie clash directly with the reader's morals, most likely there will be some dissatisfaction. Some readers are able to attribute the actions to an unlikable protagonist and read the book without agreeing with what happens, but there's a trick to that, which is not my point in this post. (E.g. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which has an unlikable narrator.)

Dissatisfaction with a story can occur if a conservative or liberal reader reads a book which goes directly against their morals. A reader may put those books down if bothered enough by them, and a writer may have lost a reader. No author is for everyone. An author I adore, another reader may hate. As long as a reader can give a reason for their likes or dislikes, it's not wrong to love or hate a book. That's the joy of having so many books to explore.

But this incident has severely shaken my confidence and given me a huge insecurity in offering my feedback. Almost to the point where I don't want to give it at all. If my personal views are irrelevant to my feedback, then what am I left with giving? Merely grammatical edits? Is that all I am allowed to say? For my personal beliefs, interests and past experiences undoubtedly influence how I see a character, how I feel about them, and whether I believe them to be realistic characters. In fact, my personal beliefs, interests and past experiences are what makes up me

So I'm left with a difficult situation in giving feedback. And that is: How can I divorce myself from my opinion? If I knew someone like this "unlikable" character in the past, I won't like this character unless there is change. If the author asks for feedback on whether their character is likable and I see them as particularly unlikable for their beliefs, their actions or their personality, what can I say? Do I just not say anything at all? 

#IWSG Alex J. Cavanaugh's page